Have you ever wondered what Communion is all about? We probably know the basics — as an act of remembrance, Jesus told his followers to break bread and drink wine. But is that it? Is there anything else happening during a Communion service?
Growing up I was taught about the symbolism and what Jesus did on the cross, but I missed out on how important and fundamentally central communion actually is.
Jesus modeled the Communion service
Communion is so important, it was one of the last things Jesus did with his disciples before his death. We take the words of Jesus and model our Communion service after them word-for-word:
14And when the hour came, he reclined at table, and the apostles with him. 15And he said to them, “I have earnestly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer. 16For I tell you I will not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.” 17And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, “Take this, and divide it among yourselves. 18For I tell you that from now on I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” 19And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. (Luke 22:14-20, ESV)
Jesus was actually eating a Passover meal with his disciples — the Jewish celebration of freedom from Egypt. Many early Pentecostals understood this to be the “last Passover meal,”1 because Jesus was about to make a new covenant with his death and resurrection. The meaning of the Passover meal would now morph into fulfillment in Christ in three ways:
(1) The shed blood spread on the doorposts speaks of redemption, (2) the lamb’s body eaten by the pilgrims speaks of both health and healing, and (3) Israel’s watery exodus speaks of the power of ‘the Blood of Jesus Christ’ to triumph over all the powers of the enemy.2
So today, we follow Christ and the Early Church’s example (1 Corinthians 11) and participate in this meal, as believers who have experienced this new covenant with Christ.
It’s more than just ‘remembering’…
Yes, we model the act of remembrance, but at the same time, draw nearer to Christ through the Spirit as we await Christ’s return. In other words, to personally participate in Communion means to do three things:
- Remember Christ’s redeeming sacrifice
We remember how the Father sent Christ, in the power of the Spirit, to die and graciously cover the sin of all mankind.
- Reflect on our salvation and healing
We reflect on how the Spirit drew us to accept the gift of grace the Father gave us through Christ.
- Refocus on the Kingdom
We refocus our attention to when Christ will return and when we will share in this meal with Christ himself (Luke 22:16), and even more, to how we will missionally share the good news with others as we await His return.3
The #Communion service is so significant — we can truly experience #Christ as the #Spirit guides us. Click To TweetThe Communion service is so significant — we can truly experience Christ as the Spirit guides us. It helps us express our gratitude for his grace and love, and inspires us as we increase our ‘passion for the Kingdom’!
It’s more than just ‘personal’…
If we’re not careful, we will miss the importance of community in Communion. It’s significant that this meal was with other people. Jesus, and the Early Church valued breaking bread together and fellowship (Acts 2:42), and because Christ unites all believers together, “all Christian fellowship comes from and leads back to [Communion].”4
Here are three ways community plays a significant role:
1. Community of Unity
We have to remember we are ONE body in Christ. Unity is the center of the Communion meal. There is ONE loaf of bread, and ONE cup being shared by ONE body.5
We have to remember we are ONE body in #Christ. #Unity is the center of the #Communion meal. Click To TweetThat’s why, when Paul wrote, “let a person examine himself” before eating together (1 Corinthians 11:28), he was pointing to the need for unity within the body of Christ. There were ‘divisions’ among them (11:18). The church should have no such divisions on any ground — Communion “transcends all social and racial boundaries”6 (Galatians 3:28f).
So Paul urged them to create a spirit of unity as they celebrated the Lord’s Supper, otherwise they would be sharing of the meal in an unworthy manner (1 Corinthians 11:27).
2. Community of Healing
Spiritual and physical healing are present when we participate in Communion. As a body of believers, the Spirit guides us to Christ and we can actually experience his healing presence.
It’s within the gathering of believers, that God distributes the Spiritual gifts as seen in 1 Corinthians 12. “Prayer for healing of the body, mind, and spirit must be a regular part of the Pentecostal church’s liturgical life.”7
Spiritual and physical #healing are present when we participate in #Communion. Click To TweetEarly Pentecostals understood that the Spirit could orchestrate conversion, healing, and sanctification during Communion.8 It’s in the community of believers that the Spirit unites and gifts the body “for the common good” (12:7).
I must say one thing, however, about those who are not healed during these moments. Paul made a connection with not partaking of Communion in a worthy manner (see above) and those who are sick:
29For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. (1 Corinthians 11:29-30)
While this may appear to be ‘tit for tat’, Paul is speaking to the whole body of believers. In other words, because you, as a whole, are not acting as the body of believers, you are missing out on the unique blessing of community healing.9
3. Community of Spirit and Truth
To be a believer means for the Spirit to dwell inside of you (1 Corinthians 3:16). To grow and mature, as a believer, means for the Spirit to use Scripture to form Christ within us.The #Spirit does more than simply illuminate #Scripture, but actually brings us closer to #Christ. Click To Tweet
“Even as the Spirit formed Christ in Mary, so the Spirit uses Scripture to form Christ in believers and vice-versa.” It’s in the ‘fusion’ of Spirit and Word that the community can grow and be led into all truth.10
During Communion, the body of believers engage in this special connection, and the Spirit does more than simply illuminate Scripture, but actually brings us closer to Christ (2:14-16).11
We need to ensure the model Christ set for us (the Last Supper) is followed for our Communion service, but, at the same time, always allow the Spirit to engage the community of believers. Communion must allow our personal spiritual lives to be enhanced by the believing community of unity, healing, and Spirit of truth.
The next time your local church gathers for Communion, how will you participate?
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References [ + ]
|1.||⇑||Chris E.E. Green, Toward a Pentecostal Theology of the Lord’s Supper (Cleveland, TN: CPT Press, 2012), 84-85. Green gives credit to William Seymour for acknowledging that Jesus fulfilled the promise of the Passover’s symbolism through the Last Supper and His death and resurrection.|
|2.||⇑||Green, Toward a Pentecostal Theology of the Lord’s Supper, 84.|
|3.||⇑||Simon Chan, Pentecostal Theology and the Christian Spiritual Tradition (Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers, 2011), 105-106.|
|4.||⇑||Green, Toward a Pentecostal Theology of the Lord’s Supper, 220-221.|
|5.||⇑||Green, Toward a Pentecostal Theology of the Lord’s Supper, 249-250.|
|6.||⇑||Chan, Pentecostal Theology and the Christian Spiritual Tradition, 102.|
|7.||⇑||Chan, Pentecostal Theology and the Christian Spiritual Tradition, 105.|
|8.||⇑||Steven Jack Land, Pentecostal Spirituality (Cleveland, TN: CPT Press, 2010), 111.|
|9.||⇑||Gordon Fee, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, NICNT (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1987), 565.|
|10.||⇑||Land, Pentecostal Spirituality, 94.|
|11.||⇑||Chan, Pentecostal Theology and the Christian Spiritual Tradition, 106-108.|